A friend asked me recently if anyone had been negative about our plans and I was pleased to assure her that no-one had, quite the opposite. I almost get the impression that we are fulfilling everyone’s dream and that they are going to live vicariously via our adventures but why are we alone in taking the plunge if we, of a certain age and socio-economic group, all feel as we do and why is there such a common desire to escape our daily routine? Is it just the enticement of the grass being greener? Do we perceive an alternative way of life as being the ultimate fantasy lifestyle? Particularly when we may be ignorant of the pitfalls and less attractive elements.
Whilst we do have a strong desire to try something different before we are too old or infirm, the timing has been determined by a series of coinciding circumstances. However, even now we could find plenty of reasons to not continue with this plan. This is invariably the case for everyone when considering taking monumental and potentially irreversible but entirely optional actions. We get scared, we are entirely comfortable with the familiar, even familiar problems are easier to deal with than unknowns. We can find more reasons to not do something than to take action; be it going to the gym, eating more healthily, changing jobs, moving house or area, even taking up that new hobby we have always had a hankering to do. Any of these involve change and the older we get the less adaptable we become, we become entrenched in our routines. There can even be pleasure in returning to them after an enjoyable holiday, primarily because that is how we have chosen to live either through affirmative actions or abstention or even both. It becomes more difficult to operate outside our comfort zone as we age, the boundaries become more embedded therefore requiring more effort to breach and for what?
There is safety and security in our regular lifestyle, it is the norm for our friends and family, our neighbours and colleagues in the UK; it can vary quite significantly just across the Channel. Foremost is in the way we view our property. It is becoming more common to own homes in other Western cultures but not to the same degree as seen in the UK. This home ownership invariably translates to mortgage owner, in reality for the first 25-30 years at least; something our counterparts on mainland Europe struggle to understand. Conversations with Nordic and Iberian acquaintances have revealed an incomprehension of our desire to be fixed in one house or location, having all the hassle, stress and responsibility of maintenance when we are not property experts and the huge upheaval, stress and cost of moving house if required. Owning a house is probably one of the most limiting factors in a work/life balance, principally due to the demands and control of the lender, we are mortgage slaves.
Our house is our home, our ‘castle’, it is where we lay our cap and any other cliché you care to unearth. But is it? Are these sayings merely a justification for conservativeness or inactivity? Should we not be more attached to the people who own our heart than the bricks and mortar where they may reside? Is there solace in being surrounded by familiar objects? Is there happiness in aspiration or are these compensatory tactics? Did Wordsworth recognise this as early as 1808!? “Getting and spending we lay waste our powers”. Is life about material acquisition or experiencing a wide diversity of people, lifestyles, climates, philosophies and scenery? The security of the familiar brings comfort and confidence but surely broadening our perspective of this planet and its occupants would generate self- assurance in abundance?
The path of the traveller is well trodden by younger generations. They are straining to expand their borders after the restrictions of childhood, even if only age related, depending on their upbringing. Their comfort zone has been imposed rather than chosen so their boundaries are not entrenched. They are in a hugely variable transition in their life so do not have to shake-off any shackles of conformity as they have yet to be adopted. This facilitates the path to travel to the extent that in the 21st century this excursion has become an expectation or norm rather than the exception it was when we were that age. Whilst some may become completely independent, others benefit from the security provided back home by the parental house where they can revert to childhood patterns on periodic repatriation. This home provides them with the confidence and security to enable them to explore and expand their boundaries knowing that they have this parental safety net to return to either from choice or in the event of misfortune. We are a bit old for this contingency but hopefully with some measure of life experience and a degree of financial security to underpin this adventure we can muddle through any mishaps.
Our adult children are the unfortunate subjects of separated parents but this does actually result in the provision of 2 homes for each of them, giving us the benefit of not removing their aforementioned safety net entirely, even if the other parent is now on a different continent with limited visa entrance for non-dependents! The other fortunate circumstance was escape from mortgage servitude. A long-term loan from my parents has enabled me to pay off the balance, leaving my son with a house in this country, if not a parent, as he pointed out on his initial reaction. Does this qualify as ‘home’ by my own definition? Having undertaken some travelling already I do feel that he can avail himself of the opportunity to come and ‘lay his hat’ with me if he needs some respite although in reality I suspect the converse is more likely. Often the mere existence of a safety net negates its necessity, much like insurance.
THE WORLD IS TOO MUCH WITH US; LATE AND SOON”
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.–Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.
William Wordsworth 1806.